Manuel Roxas, On Agrarian Reforms 1946

5 Nov

Speech of His Excellency
Manuel Roxas
President of the Philippines
Message on Agrarian Reforms

[August 8, 1946, Philippine Congress]

I am transmitting to you at this time for your earnest consideration proposed amendments to the Tenancy Law, and am accompanying these proposals with the first report of the Agrarian Commission which recently completed its studies of economic conditions in agricultural districts, and of the unrest which exists in some of these districts.

You will find from the report that the proposed amendments are highly recommended by the Agrarian Commission whose findings are based on a thorough, objective and detailed study of the major factors involved.

The Agrarian Commission was created by Executive Order precisely to study this situation. The members of this Commission have listened to every conceivable viewpoint and have made a first hand study at the very scene of these problems. The conclusions of this Commission are so finely devised, although they represent no new departure from views held by experts on this subject before the war that I have been assured of support for these proposals by representatives of both the tenants and the landowners.

This particular report deals chiefly with the relationship between tenant and landowner in the rice-producing areas the recommendations of the Commission were arrived at after a careful investigation of the economic and social problems of the individuals and groups involved in that relationship, and of the tenancy contract itself as prescribed by existing laws. The Commission also gathered information concerning the actual operation of these contracts and the resulting difficulties and conflicts which have arisen in widespread areas.

I have given much thought and study to this report have reached the conclusion that the recommendations of the Commission are based on sound principle and afford, for the present at least, a fair and just basis for the establishment of a vastly improved relationship between tenant and landowner. I, therefore, recommend to the Congress the amendment of the Tenancy Law in accordance with the recommendations of the Agrarian Commission. As soon as the necessary funds are available, I shall submit recommendations for the implementation of the other findings of the Commission, especially those proposing the construction of irrigation systems, the establishment of agricultural experiment stations, the organization of credit cooperatives for the benefit of tenants and small farmers, and the modernization of the technique of rice production.

Tenancy is an archaic and socially undesirable system as the basis for agriculture. It is a remnant of feudalism. It is a form of extreme paternalism which retards the economic and social progress of tenants and farm workers. It ties the laborer to the land as a chattel. It deadens his spirit of enterprise and makes him totally dependent on the landowner. The condition of many tenants is not unlike serfdom. This situation is repugnant to modern concepts of free enterprise and human dignity. It retards the economic advance of our nation. Wherever the system of tenancy prevails in the world, social and economic conditions are depressed. We must therefore look forward to a gradual but orderly abolition of the tenancy system; we must strive gradually and in an orderly manner to make of our farm laborers the owners of the land that they cultivate and thereby stimulate the creation of as large a class as possible of small independent farmers who can and will be the backbone of the social and political body of the nation.

To attain this end, I propose, first, to establish the fairest possible contractual basis between the tenant and landowner; second, wherever practicable and as soon as circumstances permit, to replace the system of tenancy as we know it with a system of fixed land rental, either in money or in produce; third, to acquire large estates for the purpose of subdividing them for sale at cost to the tenants; and, fourth, to open up large areas of public land for development and distribution to farmers to be attracted from the congested farm areas. This program, together with scientific aid to agriculture and the credit and other facilities that small farmers require in the organization of new farms, necessitates the expenditure of considerable amounts of money. As soon as funds are available I shall propose to the Congress the immediate implementation of this program.

As an immediate measure I propose the following amendments to the provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 4054, commonly known as “The Philippine Rice Share Tenancy Act”:

1.   In the absence of a written contract, (a) the tenant is to receive 70 per cent of the net produce of the land and the landowner 30 per cent for first class land—land whose normal production is over 40 cavans of palay per one cavan of seeds; (b) 75 per cent for the tenant and 25 per cent for the landowner for second class land—land whose normal production is between 25 and 40 cavans per one cavan of seeds; and (c) 80 per cent for the tenant and 20 per cent for the landowner for third class land―land whose normal production is less than 25 cavans per one cavan of seeds; provided the tenant supplies the work animals and farm implements and defrays all the expenses for planting and cultivation of the field. Expenses for harvesting and threshing shall be deducted from the gross produce. Expenses for the maintenance of irrigation systems within the respective areas shall be for the account of the tenant, but amortizations for the cost of construction of the system itself shall be for the account of the landowner. The expenses for construction and maintenance of privately-owned irrigation systems shall be agreed upon between landowners and tenants, but in case of disagreement, all expenses for construction shall be for the account of the landowner and the expenses of the distribution canals for the account of the tenant.

2. In case the landowner supplies the work animals and farm implements and the landowner bears all the expenses of planting and cultivation, the landowner shall receive 70 per cent and the tenant 30 per cent of the crop; but if the landowner and .the tenant bear equally the expenses of planting and cultivation, the crop shall be divided equally between the parties.

3. In case the land is planted to a second crop of rice or to other auxiliary crops, the tenant shall receive 80 per cent and the landowner 20 per cent of the net produce, provided all expenses of production are borne by the tenant.

4. In case a written contract is executed between landowner and tenant, it is to be declared against public policy and prohibited for the tenant to agree to receive less than 55.per cent of the net crop, if the tenant supplies the work to animals and farm Implements and is to bear 50 percent of the expenses of planting and cultivation.

5. In case of a contract for a fixed rental of the land, it is to be declared contrary to public policy and prohibited to stipulate a rental higher than 25 per cent of the estimated normal harvest.

6. The area to be set aside for the tenant for his house, garden and the raising of poultry and livestock should be increased from 500 square meters to not less than 600 square meters, nor more than 1,000 square meters depending upon the availability of suitable land belonging to the landowner.

The amendments I am proposing to the Tenancy Law are neither radical nor new in this country. They are virtually the same as those prevailing in the tenancy contracts in the Visayan provinces. In the Visayas, tenants and landowners are working in complete harmony, and the social condition of the tenants is relatively higher than that in the provinces of Central Luzon.

One of the most important effects of these amendments will be to induce the tenant to work harder and more continuously because of the prospect of receiving a major part of his produce. It will also induce him to avoid spending needlessly for planting and cultivating, since he will realize that such expenses will have to be borne by him exclusively. This is actually the case in the Visayan provinces. Whereas in Luzon, the usual expenses for planting and cultivation amount to a considerable sum, in the Visayan provinces few such expenses are being actually contracted because the tenant and members of his family do all the work of planting and cultivating. In cases where additional help is required, there exists a system of cooperative labor supplied by neighboring tenants and their families.

I fully realize that the proposed amendments will not solve all the economic problems of the tenants of rice lands. It is a fact, for instance, that the present methods of rice cultivation are such that no tenant can cultivate more than three hectares of rice land. And even if he were given all the produce of this land, he would still have an insufficient income to support a socially acceptable standard of living. The final answer must rather be found in gradually increasing the efficiency of the tenant by the adoption of modern methods of agriculture, the use of fertilizers, the use of mechanical implements, the stimulation of household industry, the development of seasonal employment, and the increase in the amount of land which the tenant can put into production with his own work. This is a gradual process which will require more than legislation to achieve; it will need greater efforts on the part of the tenant and a long process of education and demonstration in modern agricultural technique.

I have received letters and petitions from owners of small rice landholdings, protesting against the amendments which I am proposing in this message. These petitioners claim that if the tenants are to be given a larger share of the crop, the income of the small owners will be greatly reduced, facing them with economic disaster. My answer to this protest is that these small landowners should cultivate their own lands; thus they will not have to share the crop with tenants. We cannot deny justice to the tenants merely because the landowners do not want to work their own land and prefer to live on the work of others. These owners, if they prefer to have other employment, must be content with a fair return from land ownership.

I wish to emphasize that I am not proposing these amendments to allay threats of violence or in response to the demands of private organizations or their leaders. This is not a palliative. I am proposing these amendments because I consider them fair, just and necessary. The present crop-sharing system in Central Luzon is as old as organized production of rice itself. Crop-sharing tenancy dates back to an age, which preceded even the writing of the Old Testament, when tenants were really the slaves of the landlords.

The 70-30 crop division itself is not an especially novel concept. I recall proposing it several years before the war. The proposition was endorsed by President Quezon; it was only because of the outbreak of war that this reform was not carried out.

I desire to inform the Congress that before submitting this message, a meeting was held to discuss the Agrarian Commission report with representatives of the tenants and of the landowners. I am happy to advise the Congress that these representatives approved the recommendations of the Commission and agreed to support the’ amendments which I am now submitting for your consideration.

In view of the fact that the planting season for rice is under way and that the harvest will take place before the next session of the Congress, I earnestly request that this matter receive your early attention and that the proposed amendments be enacted at an early date.


NOTE.―The Agrarian Commission was created by Administrative Order NO. 38 on June 4, 1946, to study rural conditions specially in the rice regions, in so far as they affect discontent and unrest among the people there. Among its recommendations which Congress embodied in Republic Act No.34 approved on September 20, 1946, was the fixing of definite percentage rates for the shares of the tenants and the landowners in the rice product. This law provides that not less than 70 per cent of the harvest goes to the tenant if he furnishes the necessary implements and the work animals and defrays all the expenses for planting and cultivation of the crop, except when there is a written agreement to the contrary.

This legislation is calculated to improve the conditions of the tenant in those congested rice regions where he usually received even less than 50 per cent of the crop and had to render to the landowner certain gratuitous services in addition.


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